Editor’s Note: Over the past academic year, students enrolled in Living Education–Charlotte have enjoyed a course titled “Putting the Fruit of the Spirit to Work.” This course is taught by Mr. Michael Elliott, an elder serving in the Charlotte area as a ministerial trainee, who gives students weekly lectures on how to produce spiritual fruit in daily life. As part of their coursework, Mr. Elliott has assigned each student short essays on fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23). The following has been adapted from two such essays, and we hope you enjoy this glimpse into what the Living Education–Charlotte students have been learning!
The Fruit of Longsuffering
Several years ago, I was standing in the hot sun with a camera pointed at me. I was in a film club made up of a bunch of young teens, and we had decided to film a short movie—which would turn out to be more than an hour long. We were meeting up several days a week to film, and these days consisted of either acting or working behind the scenes from about 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., with a lunch break of 30–60 minutes. It was not uncommon for us to leave with sweat-soaked shirts. When we finally finished filming, which took an entire summer, I and some of the others would meet once a week to work on editing the film.
Tempers flared, people occasionally got hurt on set during filming, and the days were often long and boring. Yet, when it was done, we had an hour-long film, and the bonds between us were stronger than ever before.
In a small way, this experience taught me about longsuffering, which is arguably a difficult fruit of the Spirit to develop. According to Merriam-Webster.com, “longsuffering” is defined as “patiently enduring lasting offense or hardship.” It can be tempting to equate this with simply bearing hard times, but there is an added element. James pointed out this element when he wrote, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (James 1:2–3).
While it is commendable to be able to endure pain and suffering, there is an added aspect here—we are to have patience and joy in our endurance. Jesus Christ showed an extreme example of this when he went through the horror of His crucifixion. We are not told that He just gritted His teeth and bore it begrudgingly, but that He, “when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten” (1 Peter 2:23). The next part of this verse reveals how Jesus was able to endure so much, yet still be a perfect example of joy and patience in suffering: He “committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.” Jesus’ focus was on the will of His Father in heaven. Paul summed this up when he said, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).
Endure to the End
This world we live in is a rough place. Clinical psychologist Dr. Jordan Peterson once said, “The purpose of life, as far as I can tell… is to find a mode of being that’s so meaningful that the fact that life is suffering is no longer relevant” (“Reality and the Sacred,” YouTube.com). We have that mode of being. We know that God is our Father and that He has a wonderful plan for us, and that He will bring a world where war and suffering will be gone. We need to hold on to that vision—the end goal, the “finished movie”—and to the relationships with Him and others that we are developing now.
As a young man still in school, I look forward to my life. This world looks rough, and I am sure I am not alone in believing that these next few years are going to be rough—but, as I have been taught from an early age, my job right now is to “build the barn” figuratively, to prepare to have a family and provide for them. We are all “building barns,” building who we are, so we can eventually join God’s eternal family. There are going to be the days that pour on us, when we feel like nothing is going right and we’ll never reach the goal, but by putting our trust and faith in our Father in heaven, we can—and must—have longsuffering and endure to the end. “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).
Three Keys to Peace
In the world today, many people find themselves stressed, worried, and scared of the future. With a global pandemic on everyone’s mind, war looming on the horizon, and constant turmoil on the home front, how could they not be? As Christians, we will face persecution and trials, and there will come a time when we are completely cast out from society, for we “will be hated by all for [Christ’s] name’s sake” (Mark 13:13). How can we keep a positive mindset when the pressures of this life are all around us and temptations lurk in every corner of our lives?
The answer lies in a fruit of the Spirit, found in Galatians 5:22–23. That fruit is peace, which does not only mean peacemaking, although that is certainly an aspect of it. Bearing the fruit of peace also means having peace of mind. Yet how exactly can we have peace of mind in this life?
To answer this, first we must determine what peace of mind is. The dictionary at Merriam-Webster.com defines it as “a feeling of being safe or protected.” So, peace of mind is a sense of feeling safe. In this article, we’ll go over three keys to achieving the peace of mind that leads to a happier life.
Key 1: Cast Sin from Your Life
Sin is the opposite of peace; it is the source of all strife and division. In Mr. Wallace Smith’s article “The Gift of a Truly Sound Mind” (May–June 2020), he writes, “Sin’s corruption includes a degradation of our capacity to draw accurate conclusions about the world and ourselves.” Sin ruins our ability to think rationally. As Mr. Smith said in his article, Satan is a prime example of how this happens—sin corrupted Satan’s mind so much that despite his firsthand experience of God’s power and righteousness, he has devoted himself to opposing Him. He is so deluded that he continues to knowingly fight God.
If a powerful spirit being can be corrupted like this, we should be very wary of how sin can also delude our human minds. So, the first step to achieving peace of mind is to cast away sin’s delusion and repent.
Key 2: Have Faith in God’s Plan
Proverbs 29:25 tells us, “The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.” We can trust that God will keep His promises. If we’ve repented, been baptized, and are working to keep sin out of our lives, we can rely on His promise that we will be born into His family in the soon-coming Kingdom.
We see many examples of our Father’s promises being fulfilled in Scripture, and one such promise led to the nation of Israel. In Genesis 22:16–18, God promised Abraham that his family would be “as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore” and that “in [his] seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because [he] obeyed [God’s] voice.” What do we see today? The people descended from Israel have spread throughout the earth; Ephraim, a company of nations, once ruled most of the world as the British Empire, and Manasseh has brought prosperity and trade across the world as one of the greatest nations in history, the United States.
Even when Israel went completely against God, He didn’t abandon them, because of that special promise He made millennia ago. So, too, will He not abandon us. No matter where we end up in life, He will take care of us if we rely on Him.
Key 3: Keep Focused on the Big Picture
Now, while God does take care of us, this does not mean we will completely stress-free lives. God wants us to build His righteous character through the trials and stresses we face. We will never be fully at peace in this wicked world; however, we have hope in the brighter future of a new tomorrow. We can have peace in the fact that this life isn’t all there is.
If we can keep our focus on the big picture, no matter how bad things get, we can be liberated from the cares of this world. As Jesus Christ says in Matthew 6:25–34, God will provide for us—our job is to learn to emulate His righteous character and prepare for this future time of true peace, for we will be the ones to usher in this new age as His sons and daughters.
If we keep casting sin out of our lives, trusting God, and looking to the hope of a new tomorrow, we can have peace of mind to help us get through this life. As is written in 2 Corinthians 13:11, God is the God of love and peace, and He will be with us.